The steppe lake is situated between the easternmost parts of the Alps and the western part of the Small Hungarian Plain, which is the Seewinkel. The national border between Austria and Hungary cuts right through this natural region. From the biological point of view, this area offers a variety of habitats: Alpine, Pannonic, Asian, Mediterranean, and Nordic influences enrich the extra-ordinary diversity.
Fünf verschiedene Landschaften gehören zum Naturraum Neusiedler See:
The five differing landscapes composing the area of the Neusiedler See - Seewinkel National Park are:
To the west the Leithagebirge (Leitha Range) 440 metres high and about 30 km long forms a boundary to the neighbouring province.
To the north there is the Parndorf Plateau, a 200 km² gravel field, 40 meters above the lake basin
To the southeast there is the Hanság, for the most part on Hungarian territory; it occupies some 460 km².
To the east -between the Parndorf Plateau and the Main Regulation Channel (Einserkanal) there is the plain called Seewinkel that covers some 450 km².
Today, the lake covers about 320 km². It is situated at the lowest point of the Small Hungarian Plain, in a basin without outlet, at about 113 metres above sea level.
A mosaic of cultivated landscapes
Before Neolithic peoples settled down, open oak forests were originally the dominant feature of the Seewinkel landscape. Already at that time, trees were rare at extremely dry or saline patches of the region. Pasturing formed open land and later big herds of domestic animals grazed there, preventing trees from growing.
Centuries of human intervention have shaped the Seewinkel. Clearing of the woodland was followed by mowing and grazing and then drainage.
Even after World War II, there were still large herds which were grazed on common pastures.
This form of cattle farming had a long tradition: a village's domestic animals and their young (draught-oxen, cows, horses, pigs, sheep, geese) were driven by herdsmen every morning between St. Gregory's (March12th) and St. Michael's (Sept.29th) to the nearby pasture land and brought back to their owners' barns at night.